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NASTAR Frustration

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
My wife and I used to enjoy competing in NASTAR. We started doing this about 10 years ago, with some success. I got to where I could consistently get a bronze medal, and my wife was almost as consistent in getting silver. We have medals from Keystone, Breckenridge, and Snowbird. But in about 1999, suddenly neither one of us was able to medal at all. For me, it coincided with switching from K2 Velocities, my last straight skis, to K2 Fours, but my wife was skiing with the same equipment for several more years, and neither one of us has been able to medal since. We've tried and failed at Vail, Park City, and Taos. In my wife's case, she went from being within a fraction of a second of gold several times to zilch, on the same equipment, and it just doesn't make sense. In all other respects, we have become much better skiers during this period, the result of skiing 15-20 days per season in the Rockies, and always looking for challenging terrain to practice on. Has something changed in the way NASTAR is scored which could account for this? What should we do to overcome this difficulty? I upgraded my skis this season to Volkl 5 Stars, and we're leaving for 2 weeks in CO tomorrow.

Another frustration with NASTAR is that on many occasions we have found that some special interest group or club has managed to obtain a monopoly on the use of the NASTAR course, preventing us from using it at all. This has happened at Keystone, Breckenridge, and Taos. I thought the whole idea of NASTAR was to make the racing experience accessible to the PUBLIC. This should not be allowed.
post #2 of 23
About the time you mention most pacesetters were switching to the newer skis. When I switched about then my handicap dropped about 5 points until the end of the year when my competition made the switch. The pacesetters got faster when they figured out the new skis.
Also this year NASTAR, STUPIDLY, made it harder to get a medal. Somewhere some people convinced NASTAR it was too easy to get a medal(they need to get a life). NASTAR was not meant to be a national ranking system. If that's what they want, they should race USSA Masters. NASTAR was supposed to allow the recreational skier to guage their progress. Your competition is supposed to be yourself. The more medals they give out the more satisfied customers and the more repeat business. That's what's made it successful for the last 36 years and turned a lot of people on to ski racing.
Sorry for the rant. As for your problem, I'd suggest taking some carving lessons on gentle terrain where you learn to make "railroad tracks". That's the same thing I do with my USSA racers when they have problems. Racing is about good skiing and turn shape. It sounds like you may be using some old moves with your new skis.
post #3 of 23
My understanding is that they want 15% of the people in any age/gender category to get a gold medal. So, if they find more than 15% are getting a gold, the next year they make it harder. Here's a discussion on the nastar forum about this year's change:

http://www.nastar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=485
post #4 of 23

Nastar medal difficulty

I have skied NASTAR for a number of years (it's a great fun way to continue sibling rivalry with my ski buddy brother well into middle age.) We've now gone on to club racing, and someday I aspire to graduate to Masters racing, if I continue to get faster as I get older. (Older alone doesn't cut it. The masters guys are fast.)

My observations and experience:

(1) I've gotten faster, and my handicaps have improved over the last six years, but by far less than the proportion to how much I've improved. In '97-98, I was ranked 37th out of 575 recreational racers in my state; the last two years I've been number 1, but my handicaps have only slightly improved, even though I'm way faster now than I was in '98. (In full discloure, many, many people race way faster than I did in '98. As Warren Miller said, "Anyone who tells you he skis better now than when he was 19 wasn't a very good skier when he was 19...")

(2) I think Slatz nailed it with his observation that starting about '99, the pace setters got shaped skis and scoring against them got harder.

(3) NASTAR has changed its national pacesetter over time, against whom local pacesetters are theoretically matched. A few years ago, the pacesetter was Picabo Street, a retired female speed skier. This year it's Daron Ralves, a male low-FIS points monster even in GS gates.

(4) Frustratingly, every year NASTAR fiddles with its categories/ national championship qualification procedure. This year, in what was probably a customer relations mistake, NASTAR made it much harder to get silver and gold medals. (Last year, a 45-49 year old male got a gold medal for skiing on a short course in theory 27% slower than the national pacesetter. This year he'd have to ski fast enough to be only 18% slower than the national pacesetter to get a gold medal.) Given the shape of the bell curve, downgrading the medals that many, many customers get for running the course this year probably discourages them, and the average guy headed down a Nastar course probably doesn't go look at the Web site to understand the rules change: He just knows that two years ago on vacation at Breckenridge he got a gold, but now he got a bronze. Bummer. Let's go ski the bowl instead. (Or, worse yet, "Darn. I'm losing it. Maybe I should think of giving this up...") From a marketing standpoint, this latest set of changes seems, well, nutty is the charitable adjective.

(5) Nastar courses are typically really short, and the pacesetter runs them at the beginning of the racing day (typically, in the morning), which means (A) they disproportionately favor skiers with a strong start, and (B) the handicap/medals chart can be gamed in some conditions by running the course at the right time on the right day (new fallen snow in cold conditions--by the time the course is skied some, and it warms up from ten degrees Fahrenheit to twenty five, you're a lot faster than the 10 a.m. pacesetter who ran it in four inches of cold powder. Snow 14 degrees Fahrenheit and below creates more friction on a ski.)

If you want to ski Nastar at a specific resort, sometimes it makes sense to call ahead to make sure they're running the course. (A) in new fallen heavy snow, they probably won't run Nastar, period; (B) sometimes smaller resorts (like Ski Cooper) are running a town race or a league race instead of Nastar, as they only have a limited staff for course setting and timing; and (C) even in the larger resorts sometimes (but it's actually very rare--happened to me once in 100 Nastar days over the last six years) the Nastar course is reserved for some special corporate/ski group event.

If you're going to Colorado and you specifically want to improve your Nastar racing, Vail has two-hour Nastar racing clinics which are effectively semi-private recreational racing lessons with lots of gates to run, on a course that's more interesting than most Nastar courses. (Longer than most, flat top, steep to flat transition near the bottom.) Since the course (in the Black Forest Race arena.) has its own poma lift, you can do yo-yo gate skiing and get a lot of practice. Information:

2-hour NASTAR racing clinics, $60, 10:30-12:30; 1:15-3:15; (970)479-4072 or (970)479-4051.

http://vail.snow.com/info/act.racing.asp

Or go to a resort that has a race course and get a semi-private lesson with a good instructor who will help you with gate-relevant training. A little instruction about a good racing start, a skate move to get up to speed quickly, skiing an early line, and skidding a little less would probably bump your handicap way down, and maybe put you back in the medals, even under this year's harder grading system.

Good luck.

sfDean
post #5 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeanMarie
My understanding is that they want 15% of the people in any age/gender category to get a gold medal. So, if they find more than 15% are getting a gold, the next year they make it harder. Here's a discussion on the nastar forum about this year's change:

http://www.nastar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=485
That sounds a lot like trying to be in the exceeds expectations group when yearly reviews come around at work!!!!!!
post #6 of 23
John, shape skis provide a racer with the potential to ski much faster. If your wife is still on her old equipment it's not surprising that her results have fallen off because the pacesetters are much faster now on their shapes, and if she hasn't switched over she will not be. This fact would compound the challenges of any of the results calculations changes Slatz mentioned.

As to your difficulties: shapes provide the opportunity to go faster, they don't guarantee it. You have to learn how to make this new skis perform to their potentials. Those who've trained hard and adapted their technique to the new boards will expand the differential between those who have not. I guess you might say that for the recreational racer who trains gates infrequently the new skis are a double edged sword.
post #7 of 23
Now if the PNW would get some snow our races wouldn't get cancelled.
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnb
My wife and I used to enjoy competing in NASTAR. We started doing this about 10 years ago, with some success. I got to where I could consistently get a bronze medal, and my wife was almost as consistent in getting silver. We have medals from Keystone, Breckenridge, and Snowbird. But in about 1999, suddenly neither one of us was able to medal at all. For me, it coincided with switching from K2 Velocities, my last straight skis, to K2 Fours, but my wife was skiing with the same equipment for several more years, and neither one of us has been able to medal since. We've tried and failed at Vail, Park City, and Taos. In my wife's case, she went from being within a fraction of a second of gold several times to zilch, on the same equipment, and it just doesn't make sense. In all other respects, we have become much better skiers during this period, the result of skiing 15-20 days per season in the Rockies, and always looking for challenging terrain to practice on. Has something changed in the way NASTAR is scored which could account for this? What should we do to overcome this difficulty? I upgraded my skis this season to Volkl 5 Stars, and we're leaving for 2 weeks in CO tomorrow.
The Volkl 5 Stars made a difference! I got a bronze medal at Breckenridge. This was the first time I had tried NASTAR since Taos, about 3 years ago. I could tell I was rusty, as it was very obvious to me that I was losing speed at the maddeningly flat end of the course.

When I first started skiing NASTAR, I took a couple of clinics, and I was told that it wasn't an unrealistic goal to progress to where I could get a gold medal. Now, I have mixed feelings about whether or not I even want to keep trying for a gold on NASTAR. To be perfectly honest, I was having a lot more fun challenging myself by skiing the Cimarron run on peak 10. Every other time we've been to Breckenridge, that run had been closed off to all but high level racers. I never tried to take the fastest line possible, but I was comfortably skiing faster than I have ever skied before.
post #9 of 23
Keep ski racing in perspective and fun. If you're happy with a bronze medal (and why shouldn't you be- especially with the tighter handicapping), enjoy the occasional race and save your time and money for freeskiing. You don't have to be full-time to enjoy ski racing for what it is- a way to measure yourself against the clock and your peers.

Congrats on the bronze.
post #10 of 23
I got a silver about 5 years ago at Keystone.

Nothing special there. Except I was on skiboards!
post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SLATZ
NASTAR was not meant to be a national ranking system.

Of course it wasn't,thats why it was named NASTAR: National Standardized Race.

Yikes.
post #12 of 23
I may be dating myself but when NASTAR was relatively new there was some influence from the marketing departments in the East. Some mountains had a rep for an easy NASTAR Gold while others wanted a rep for a NASTAR medal that meant something!!

I haven't participated in over fifteen years because I lost repect for the "National Standard"
post #13 of 23
Medals are marketing tools. Medals= satified customers = repeat business. No medal? Why try? I think that's what I've heard here and at home too.
The system has worked for 35 years and given us lots of racers (Picaboo among them). Why mess with it? There's lots of ways within the system to feed the egos of those who need it. I haven't taken home a medal in years, I just look at the handicap and go by that. It tells me what I want to know.(did I improve?)
post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SLATZ
I just look at the handicap and go by that. It tells me what I want to know.(did I improve?)
When I skied NASTAR recently at Breckenridge, I took several runs, and I could swear that after each run my handicap was different. If so, couldn't someone intentionally do several poor runs to get a high handicap and then do a good run with an increased chance of getting a medal? Is there anyplace on the web where the handicapping system is fully explained?

On any given day on any given NASTAR run, if most of the skiers in my age category are hotshots, does that make it more difficult for me to get a medal than it would be if they were all beginners?
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnb
When I skied NASTAR recently at Breckenridge, I took several runs, and I could swear that after each run my handicap was different. If so, couldn't someone intentionally do several poor runs to get a high handicap and then do a good run with an increased chance of getting a medal? Is there anyplace on the web where the handicapping system is fully explained?

On any given day on any given NASTAR run, if most of the skiers in my age category are hotshots, does that make it more difficult for me to get a medal than it would be if they were all beginners?

Come on....try going to the Nastar site. It's explained. Your handicap isn't based on your performance it's based on your performance against the pacesetter. The pacesetter is handicapped against a US ski team member. The other criteria used in determining handicap is age.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidecut
The other criteria used in determining handicap is age.
Actually, age has nothing to do with handicap. Age comes into play for the medal category. A 20 handicap in my age bracket is a silver, where in other age brackets it could be a gold or bronze. The handicap is simply the percentage slower you are from the "par" time or "0" handicap. Not to be confused with the "pace" time the pacesetter ran. Confused yet?

Yes it has gotten tougher this season. They re-adjusted the whole system. It should be tough to get a gold. Racers are getting better. I see a lot more "serious" Nastar racers then I used to. Lots of pace setters go to legitimate pace setting trials in Dec and actually run against AJ Kitt (a 2 handicap) and a few other traveling pacesetters. That way they establish a more legitimate handicap for their area.

If you need a gold medal for your ego, take some race lessons and practice. Nastar racing is a great way to improve your overall skiing.
post #17 of 23
The medals show a certain level of performance and can be a "carrot" for continued participation. It's worked fine for 35 years. Why mess with it?
It's fine if someone wants to be a "serious" NASTAR racer but why spoil it for the weekend warrior? After all, they're the target market. There are other programs for "serious" racers.
post #18 of 23
I don't have a problem with them adjusting the requirements for medals, I just think that they made a really large jump that has changed things for a lot of people. Most people have no clue about handicapping and ZPT etc.

Of course NOW when I find someone that has earned a Silver or Gold this year, I know that they are a very good skier for their age group.

Hey, if I want to get a Gold, I need to get a LOT faster or a LOT older. I earned Bronze and Silver in the past, but Gold is still a ways off. As it should be. I am a 4 in a Far West ski racing league, and there are a LOT of racers faster than me in my league; some older, some younger.

Some suspect that NASTAR decreased the medals distributed to save money. I like to hope that it was to set the bar higher. Too bad so many occasional racers have been affected.

Just my opinions,

Wristshot
post #19 of 23
I'm sure the distribution of medals had nothing to do with it. The resorts that have Nastar all have to purchase their medals. They are less then 1 dollar each and your race fee covers that.

I believe they shoot for something like 15% in the gold category and they were getting way more then that.

As far as "other" programs for serious racers, that's not always true. In my area, beer league and Nastar is all we have. No Masters, no USSA. Our beer league is considered a Nastar resort, as are a few others around the country. We have our own qualified pace setters and they are tough. One is a legitimate 6, the other a 7. Come by next season and see if you can gold against these two. It's not easy.

I'm leaving for the Nationals tomorrow. It's a good time. Watching Daron, AJ, Doug, Kristina and Casey set the pace is worth the entry fee.
post #20 of 23
Good luck at Nationals
Look for my friend Dennis Novak, he's 57 or 58. He's been on the podium in his age group for the last 7 or 8 years.(since they changed the format so you can go every year) There's no "core" harder than his. We trained at Tyrol last night, drank a couple beers and he left from there for Utah.
He and I are on opposite ends of this issue.
post #21 of 23
Don't mean to jack the thread, but I have my own personal frustration with NASTAR Nationals ...

Specifically the location - Utah. I've wanted to go to Nationals now for the last several years (especially after finding out an old college racing buddy is National Champ ...).

However, every year I have the same issue where if I'm in the area then the LAST place I'm going to ski is PC ... especially for 4 days!

LCC & BCC are getting pounded - I'm soooo glad that once again I didn't plan to go to Nationals.

Nationals should be held in Wisconsin somewhere.
post #22 of 23
I race for my high school team, and usually when I go skiing at a major resort I feel like running gates at some point during the day. NASTAR races are fun, but I really wish they would set a course that requires some actual turning. I hardly ever have to leave a tuck in their courses. There was even a FLUSH in a "GS" course yesterday! Are you kidding? You could race these things on 240s with a good coat of wax to win, it'd be a lot more real if they put some actual turns into it, not just made it so that the guy with the best tuck and wax (who can carve decently) will win.
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by doublediamond223
I race for my high school team, and usually when I go skiing at a major resort I feel like running gates at some point during the day. NASTAR races are fun, but I really wish they would set a course that requires some actual turning. I hardly ever have to leave a tuck in their courses. There was even a FLUSH in a "GS" course yesterday! Are you kidding? You could race these things on 240s with a good coat of wax to win, it'd be a lot more real if they put some actual turns into it, not just made it so that the guy with the best tuck and wax (who can carve decently) will win.
I'm afraid that's not the guy NASTAR exists for.
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